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Bishop Christopher announces retirement

By Paul Black*
Oct. 25, 2007 | SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (UMNS)

Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher

Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher has announced she will retire when her third term as episcopal leader of the Illinois Area ends Sept. 1, 2008.

Christopher notified the president of the Council of Bishops by letter that she will seek retired status, concluding a 20-year career as bishop in Minnesota and Illinois.

"My decision is the result of a long, prayerful, intentional discernment that has led to the realization that it, simply put, is time to retire," Christopher said. "In the ordinary time of Charles and my life and in the extraordinary movement of God, it is time."

Christopher could have served another four years as bishop in another episcopal area but chose voluntary retirement.

 "I love the work I am about as a bishop. I have never been more fulfilled in ministry or more hopeful for the church and its mission in the world than I am now," she said. "Thus, this decision is not driven by any desire to distance myself from episcopal ministry."

Christopher was chosen by the Council of Bishops to deliver the Episcopal Address at the 2008 United Methodist General Conference, the top legislative assembly for the denomination, which will meet April 23-May 2 in Fort Worth, Texas. She was the first woman to serve as president of the Council of Bishops in 2002 and was named the first person to lead the new Connectional Table in 2004.

The North Central Jurisdiction will now need to set up an election for bishop when delegates gather in Grand Rapids, Mich., July 16-19, 2008.

A conference delegation will begin discernment Oct. 26 around whether to offer an episcopal candidate to the jurisdictional conference. Meeting Sept. 22 – prior to Christopher’s announcement – delegation members set the Oct. 26 date to begin discernment, even though it was not certain as to whether there would be a vacancy requiring an election in 2008.

*Black is the editor of The Current, the newspaper for the Illinois Great Rivers Conference.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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Illinois Great River Conference

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